From Kashmir to Gujarat, Journalists Continue to Get Arrested. But It Hasn’t Angered Our Netas Like Arnab’s Arrest

Social Commentary

From Kashmir to Gujarat, Journalists Continue to Get Arrested. But It Hasn’t Angered Our Netas Like Arnab’s Arrest

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

The arrest of Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami has resulted in widespread condemnation. Union ministers like Amit Shah, Smriti Irani, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Javadekar and Subrahmanyam Jaishankar among others, have described this as a crackdown on “press freedom”. They spoke about “fascism” and the days of “Emergency”.

However, many journalists have taken to social media to point out the hypocrisy of how senior netas have been quiet when media persons were targeted in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. “Suddenly waking up to ‘shaming of democracy’ and talking of the ‘Emergency’ just sounds so hypocritical,” said Sidharth Bhatia, founding editor of The Wire.

Columnist Nilanjana Roy quoted an article from Newslaundry that lists the names of Indian journalists who have been booked, arrested, and assaulted during the lockdown. In Kashmir, journalists have been booked under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. Uttar Pradesh has alone booked eight journalists, more than any other state.

“Mostly, the journalists have been booked under the Indian Penal Code’s Section 188, which criminalises disobeying a public servant’s order, and Section 505 (1)(b), which punishes causing fear and alarm to the public ‘whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the state’. Punitive sections of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 have been invoked as well,” the article stated.

But no arrest or assault has evoked such a strong reaction from those in power. “What is the name of the Malyali journalist arrested under UAPA in Uttar Pradesh? What is the name of the Caravan Journalist beaten up by Delhi Police ACP?” lawyer and writer Dushyant Arora asked on Twitter.

Like journalists, activists and lawyers have also been exploited in the country.

Journalist Rohini Singh took a potshot at Javdekar. “Am sure you would agree a free press is needed in all states and not just Maharashtra,” she tweeted.

The list of journalists who have been wronged is a long one.

Satirist Akash Banerjee alluded to India’s abysmal 142nd ranking in the global press freedom index.

What happened to Goswami might be political vendetta and ministers have the right to condemn it. But one only hopes they show as much concern when the next journalist is assaulted in Delhi or arrested in Gujarat.